The concern that the 2016 US presidential election may be hacked, by Russia or some other bad actor, could hold the same place in history as the Millennium Bug: a whole load of worry over nothing. “Unless the election is extraordinarily close, it is unlikely that an attack will result in the wrong candidate getting elected,” suggest Matt Bernhard and Professor J Alex Halderman, security experts from the University of Michigan. But they say the risk the election process could be disrupted by hackers should be taken extremely seriously. In the run up to the big day, the US Department of Homeland Security has been carrying out “cyber hygiene” tests on voting systems across the country. Officials are confident in the technology, but there are weaknesses that have security professionals standing-by on election day ready to step-in if irregularities are spotted.
National: Fear Is Driving Voting Rights Advocates and Vigilantes to Watch Polling Stations | The New York Times
Millions of Americans will cast their ballots on Tuesday under intense scrutiny both from vigilantes who fear the election will be rigged and from thousands of voting rights advocates who fear the tally will be distorted by intimidation and, perhaps, the suppression of a minority vote that may be crucial to the outcome. On one side are groups like the Oath Keepers, one of dozens of right-wing and militia groups responding to Donald J. Trump’s warnings about a stolen election. The organization has issued a nationwide “call to action” to its members, urging them to go “incognito” to polling stations on Election Day to “hunt down” instances of fraud. On the other side are more than 100 civic and legal groups, claiming at least 10,000 volunteers, and perhaps many more. They plan to deploy at polling places nationwide to watch for signs of voter intimidation and other roadblocks to voting. Election officials and observers say they are hoping for an orderly final day of voting, but they are girding for the possibility of fights, intimidation and, perhaps, worse. Adding to the anxiety is fear of Election Day hacking, perhaps by foreign interests. “I would say this is the most frightening election period I can remember in my adult life,” said Richard L. Hasen, an election law expert and professor at the University of California, Irvine.
Whatever the outcome Tuesday, there’s one thing that could very well happen: Accusations that the election has been rigged and the results falsified. This is extremely unlikely — voter fraud is more rare than being struck by lightning, according to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. But the 2016 presidential race has been riddled with leaks perpetrated by hackers who wormed their way into servers to try to undermine the election. And though there’s little precedent, the truth is that interference by hackers tomorrow is totally possible. That doesn’t mean hackers are necessarily able to alter the election results, but they could sow fear and mayhem that lead to claims of rigging after Election Day. Here’s how. “Most voting systems are not designed to be connected to the internet for their operation, and because of that there’s no easy remote way in,” said Pamela Smith of VerifiedVoting.org, a nonpartisan group that promotes accuracy and transparency at the polls. Officials like to point out that this is a security feature. But, Smith says, that doesn’t rule out concern for an insider threat.
A hacker armed with a $25 PCMCIA card can, within a few minutes, change the vote totals on an aging electronic voting machine that is now in limited use in 13 U.S. states, a cybersecurity vendor has demonstrated. The hack by security vendor Cylance — which released a video of it Friday — caught the attention of noted National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, but other critics of e-voting security dismissed the vulnerability as nothing new. The Cylance hack demonstrated a theoretical vulnerability described in research going back a decade, the company noted. The hack is “not surprising,” Pamela Smith, president of elections security advocacy group Verified Voting, said by email. “The timing of the release is a little odd.” … The Cylance demonstration was “not new and badly timed,” said Joe Kiniry, a security researcher and CEO at Free and Fair, an election technology developer. “This kind of attack has been demonstrated on almost all of the widely deployed machines used today.”
This election season, voting machine security is probably not top of mind. After all, 75 percent of votes cast in the United States use paper ballots, and many electronic machines print a ballot to maintain a paper trail. However, according to Pamela Smith, president of election integrity organization Verified Voting, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey and South Carolina use electronic voting machines. If connected to a network, a voting machine could be yet another device that needs to be secured. For instance, hackers could likely intercept signals from an electronic voting machine connected to the network, similar to how hackers could intercept a user’s data when he or she connects to public Wi-Fi. Earlier this year, the FBI issued an alert requesting that states contact their Board of Elections and determine if any suspicious activity had been detected in their logs, following the hacking of two state election boards, one of which resulted in data being stolen. This led to ongoing speculation as to whether tomorrow’s election will be hacked.
In the waning days of his campaign to win the White House, Donald Trump has been warning his supporters that the presidential vote is being “rigged” against the Republicans and in favor of rival Hillary Clinton, a Democrat. … Trump campaign officials have been quick to clarify that when Trump talks about “rigging,” he’s usually referring to what he sees as media bias against his candidacy. But all the talk of election irregularities has elevated concerns among some Americans about the security of their votes — and perhaps in one regard, with good reason. … Elections in the U.S. are run individually by the 50 states plus the District of Columbia. Secretaries of state, both Republicans and Democrats, insist their systems are secure. That message was recently echoed by Thomas Hicks, chair of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, who told members of the U.S. House of Representatives, “There’s no national system that a hacker or a bad actor can infiltrate to affect the American elections as a whole.” Hicks’ views are not shared among many cyber researchers. “I’m pretty worried,” said J. Alex Halderman, director of the Center for Computer Security and Society at the University of Michigan. “We’re facing some pretty serious threats when it comes to security and elections. I’m quite worried that in an election soon we’ll see real attacks that will either try to disrupt the election or possibly would try to change votes.”
Over the past few months, an escalating series of attacks on computer networks—many of them inflicted by something called the Mirai botnet, which uses a web of infected DVRs, webcams, and other “smart” devices to drown targeted websites in traffic—have wrought unprecedented havoc all over the world. Experts have speculated that these distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks are a “rehearsal” for something bigger. Meanwhile Russian hackers have been busy throwing monkey wrenches into the American presidential election, breaking into the computers of the Democratic National Committee this summer and (it seems) leaking emails from John Podesta, a high-level aide to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The confluence of these two threats—a super-powerful botnet and the specter of Russian influence on the contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump—has stoked fears of a massive cyberattack that could upend the vote on November 8. So, yes, the government and the cybersecurity industry are on high alert. “A lot of actors will try to take advantage of a high-profile event to cause trouble or raise their profiles,” says Ian Gray, a cyber intelligence analyst for Flashpoint, which has been at the center of monitoring and mitigating attacks by Mirai. But intelligence does not point to a connection between the autumn spree of DDOS attacks and a state-sponsored effort to hack the election itself. And government officials say they don’t believe an attack is likely to black out some massive chunk of the internet in order to wreak political havoc on Tuesday.
Interference by hackers is just one of the nightmare scenarios that worry computer scientists about the upcoming election. The other is a race so close that calling the result is beyond the capacity of today’s voting technology. Experts who’ve delved into the accuracy of these apparatuses — from punch cards and mechanical levers to electronic voting machines — say that no system is perfect. In most cases the error rates are unknown, or are only measured in artificial test settings and not as they would be used in the real world. Computer scientist Douglas Jones of the University of Iowa, who co-authored the book “Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count?,” came to realize that voters usually blame themselves when something goes wrong in the voting booth — a tendency that could mask intentional hacking or equipment error. When Jones set up experiments with electronic voting machines rigged to switch votes away from the subjects’ choices, the people casting ballots assumed they had done something wrong. “People tend to trust the machines,” he said — even when the machines don’t work. Electronic voting machines use proprietary software, making it hard for outside researchers to get a measure of their error rates, according to computer scientist Rebecca Mercuri, founder of the company Notable Software and an expert on electronic voting systems. “In polling they say the results are plus or minus 3 points or so, but they don’t say that about voting machines,” she said. “If it’s a really close election, you’re looking at a crapshoot.”
National: Cyberattacks on Election Day Might Not Happen, But If They Do They’ll be Denials of Service and Disinformation | WIRED
Hacks, sata leaks, and disinformation have all added to the chaos of one of the most contentious elections in history. US intelligence agencies have even accused Russia of perpetrating some portion of the digital meddling. And now reports indicate that officials are preparing for worst-case cybersecurity scenarios on November 8. But what might those election day digital threats realistically look like? Government officials and the media have been worried over the possibilities of attacks that might hack voting machines, leak last-minute November surprises about candidates, or even sabotage the power grid. But ask the cybersecurity community, and they’ll tell you the easiest way to hack the election is a simpler, two-pronged attack: Black out sources of real information and spread disinformation. “They’re going to try to influence this election further using a combination of things like additional leaks, DDoS attacks, and targeting the media,” says Adam Meyers, vice president of intelligence at the security firm CrowdStrike. “What better way to destabilize a country without a shot being fired than by leveraging these various tools to play with people?”
In 1977, a flood control measure on the ballot in Monterey, Calif., became what historians say was the first modern American election decided by people who voted before Election Day. It was a strange moment even for some who participated; elections had traditionally been a kind of civic gathering, on one day. But the practice caught on with voters, and it eventually spread from the West Coast to 37 states and the District of Columbia. Today, at least 43 million Americans have already voted in the presidential election. And when the ballots are tallied nationwide Tuesday evening, more than one-third of them will have come from people who voted early — a record. Voting before Election Day has become so commonplace that it is reshaping how campaigns are waged, and how Americans see the race in its final, frantic days. “The idea that one wakes up and it’s Election Day in America is actually a rather quaint idea now,” said Russ Schriefer, a Republican consultant who has worked on presidential campaigns for two decades. “It is as much as a monthlong process to draw people in. And so your advertising tactics, your messaging tactics and certainly your ground game have changed completely.”
Editorials: What an election law expert worries about on election day | Richard Hasen/Los Angeles Times
For those of us who follow elections and election law professionally, election day itself is pretty uneventful—unless of course you work for a campaign. There often are reports of “flipped votes” for one candidate or another thanks to a miscalibrated machine, problems of long lines here or there and various little hiccups, but generally nothing major. This time around, though, I am more nervous than usual. Here are the three things I am most worried about, from least to most concerning. Bureaucratic shenanigans. In recent years, Republican legislatures have passed a slew of laws making it harder to register and vote, especially if you’re poor, a person of color or a student (all populations likely to vote Democratic). In response, Democrats and voting rights groups have sued, claiming the laws violate the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act. Although federal courts in some states, such as Wisconsin and Texas, have imposed interim remedies to assist those who, for example, do not have one of the narrow forms of photographic identification required to cast a ballot, reports from the early voting period suggest that misinformation is widespread. (That’s often because recalcitrant state governments are unwilling to clarify requirements or to fully and fairly implement court orders.)
Editorials: The Supreme Court Ruled That Voting Restrictions Were a Bygone Problem. Early Voting Results Suggest Otherwise. | Emily Bazelon/The New York Times
Tomorrow, and the early voting leading up to it, mark the first presidential election since the Supreme Court clipped the protective wings of the Voting Rights Act. In 2013, speaking for a conservative majority of five, Chief Justice John Roberts effectively eliminated the safeguards created by a provision of the law called Section 5, saying that Congress could no longer require states and counties with a history of racial discrimination to get the approval of the Department of Justice before changing local voting rules and practices. Roberts said things had “changed dramatically” since the 1960s, and these jurisdictions, which are mostly in the South, didn’t need oversight from the D.O.J. anymore. They could be trusted to treat minority voters fairly on their own. As evidence of change, Roberts pointed to the end of the literacy test and other methods of barring voter registration, which included the poll tax. But his conservative majority didn’t account for the hassle tax — the new price that minority voters disproportionately pay. In North Carolina over the weekend, people stood in line for hours in counties with large black and student populations. In a study of 381 counties covered by Section 5, about half the total number, the Leadership Conference Education Fund found 868 fewer places to vote than existed in 2012.
Alaska: Federal judge rejects lawsuit challenging Alaska’s limits on campaign donations | Alaska Dispatch News
A federal judge Monday upheld Alaska’s strict limits on several types of state-level campaign contributions, ruling that they don’t violate the free speech or equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. A group of Republicans brought the suit in November, and a weeklong trial ended in May. The decision, from U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess, an appointee of George W. Bush, came a day before high-stakes legislative elections that may change control of the state House or Senate.
The race to succeed retiring Senator Barbara Boxer is unlike anything American politics has seen. It’s California’s first fight for an open Senate seat in 24 years, and it is being waged between two Democratic women of color, state Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez. The election of either would be a historic first: Harris would be the first biracial woman and first Indian-American woman in the U.S. Senate; Sanchez would be the first Latina. But there’s another way in which it’s groundbreaking: It’s a high-profile, open-seat Senate election without a Republican on the ballot. The Harris-Sanchez showdown could offer a glimpse into the future of national politics, not just because of who’s running but because of the radical way the whole race was structured. It’s the largest experiment ever for a new kind of election—California’s so-called jungle primary, in which the top two vote-getters go against each other in the general election, regardless of party—and it is exposing that model’s unexpected shortcomings.
A Marion County judge wants to know how a sealed search warrant affidavit for an alleged voter fraud investigation was leaked. Defense attorneys for a voter registration group, Patriot Majority USA, requested and were granted an emergency hearing Monday evening with a prosecutor and a Marion County judge after details of the document were published by another news outlet. I-Team 8 was present in the clerk’s office Monday evening but were kept out of the meeting held in the judge’s chambers. At issue is a search warrant affidavit that the judge told I-Team 8 remains under seal. Linda Pence, attorney for the voter registration group founded by a Democratic strategist, said that the Patriot Majority USA’s local outlet – the Indiana Voter Registration Project – was a “respectable organization” that helped register 45,000 voters in Indiana.
State Kris Kobach from implementing a two-tiered voter registration system, ruling Friday that he “simply lacks the authority” to do so. Shawnee County Judge Larry Hendricks’ latest ruling has no impact on Tuesday’s election because the judge had previously temporarily halted the proposed dual system that would have thrown out votes cast by some Kansas voters in state and local elections. Two recent federal court rulings are already forcing Kansas to let these residents vote in federal elections. The American Civil Liberties Union sued Kobach, challenging an administrative rule that had set up a dual voter registration system. Under his proposed system, Kansas residents who registered at motor vehicle offices or used a national form without providing proof of citizenship would have been able to vote only in federal races.
When New Jersey voters go to the polls Tuesday, they’ll cast their votes on 20-year-old voting machines with no verifiable paper trail. Some voting rights advocates tell Kane In Your Corner that’s a combination that could leave the state powerless to conduct an effective audit if something goes wrong. “I think what’s really important is to prove not only to the winners that they won, but to the losers that they lost,” says Pamela Smith, president of the nonprofit group Verified Voting. The group favors optically scanned paper ballots, now used in several states, including New York. The ballots can be scanned by machines, but hand-inspected if questions arise. … New Jersey election director Robert Giles, however, insists the state’s current voting machines, primarily comprised of AVC Advantage machines introduced in 1996, have proven to be reliable. “To this date, there’s been no evidence of the machines malfunctioning to the extent that there’s been an election questioned,” Giles says. Smith questions how the state can be so certain. Without paper copies to audit, she says “you can run the numbers again, but there’s no way to be sure the equipment is working correctly.”
A federal judge rejected arguments that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his political adviser Roger Stone are rallying supporters to intimidate minority voters on Election Day by acting as vigilante poll monitors and “ballot integrity” volunteers. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond in Philadelphia, on the eve of the general election, is a setback for Democrats who had sought a court order barring aggressive polling-place activity such as invasions of physical space, aggressive questioning and veiled or actual threats of physical violence that they claim could chill the turnout for Clinton.
The Democrats’ “belated, inflammatory allegations appear intended to generate only heat,” and don’t support claims that the Trump campaign threatened voting rights, Diamond said in a 16-page ruling. With Trump trailing in most polls, Pennsylvania is a battleground state in Tuesday’s election. A Trump win in the state, with its 20 electoral votes, would make the Republican Party nominee’s path easier toward the 270 electoral votes needed to secure the election. A win there by the Democratic Party’s nominee, Hillary Clinton, would likely seal the election for her.
National security experts say hackers backed by foreign governments are trying to influence the U.S. election, and the nation’s voting infrastructure is dangerously vulnerable. Time for an overhaul, they say. But when county officials in Austin, the capital of Texas, wanted to replace their voting equipment in 2012, they didn’t like what they saw. Electronic machines on the market had security problems. Voter-marked paper ballots can leave room for interpretation. So County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir called Rice University computer science professor Dan Wallach, who has been poking holes in voting-machine security for years. He’s testified before Congress on the subject. Now DeBeauvoir wanted him to design a new one. “Wow,” he says. “That doesn’t happen very often.”
Two weeks of early voting revealed strains and missteps as Texas tried to comply with a court order reining in its voter ID law. When Election Day dawns, civil rights advocates, along with state and county officials, hope that most wrinkles have been ironed out for the ultimate test. “I think there’s been a needed pressure on the counties, as well as a public awareness,” Marisa Bono, southwest regional counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense Educational Fund (MALDEF), said Friday — Texans’ last day to vote early before Tuesday’s anticipated poll rush. “We’ve certainly had less complaints this week than we did last week.” Alicia Pierce, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State Carlos Cascos, said her office was also fielding fewer calls from confused or concerned voters, making her optimistic Election Day will go smoothly.
The Secretary of State reports that 2.1 million ballots turned in among the state’s more than four million registered voters. But mailing or dropping off your ballot isn’t the only way to get your vote counted. Accessible voting centers are available for voters who need assistance completing their ballot. Trained staff and specialized equipment are available to help voters with disabilities cast a private, independent ballot. “We have ‘sip and puff’ adaptive equipment, we also have earphones so people can hear the ballot, instead of visually seeing the ballot, we can make the font larger,” said Julie Wise, the King County director of elections. The machines are equipped for anyone who has a vision, hearing, or dexterity impairment. But also, if you never got your ballot or lost it, you’ll be able to go to one of the polling places.
Socialist-backed candidate Rumen Radev, who has called for an end to European Union sanctions against Russia, has won the first round of Bulgaria’s presidential election, partial official results showed on Monday. Radev’s close-fought victory over ruling party candidate Tsetska Tsacheva makes the former air force commander favorite to win a run-off on Sunday, a result that could push the Black Sea NATO member state politically closer to Russia. Results from 95 percent of polling stations showed Radev, 53, winning 25.7 percent of the vote. Center-right candidate Tsacheva, who had been expected to win narrowly, won 22 percent. A Radev victory in the run-off could usher in months of political instability, including a possible snap parliamentary ballot, after Prime Minister Boiko Borisov signaled he may quit if his candidate Tsacheva loses. Bulgaria’s president is a largely ceremonial figure, but can also influence policy, veto legislation and sign international treaties.
A non-binding plebiscite on electoral reform in Prince Edward Island has shown voters support a switch to a form of proportional representation. Mixed member proportional representation was the most popular option, drawing more than half of the votes after ballots were counted and redistributed five times according to the rules of preferential voting. Islanders were given five options to chose from, including an option to keep the current first-past-the-post system. Voters were asked to rank some or all of the options on a one-to-five scale. If no electoral system received more than half the votes, the option with the fewest votes was eliminated and those ballots redistributed to their second-choice option. That process was repeated until one option passed the 50 per cent threshold to achieve majority support.
A handful of political parties are suing the country’s election management body for disqualifying their would-be candidates from running for the presidency on December 7. The Electoral Commission of Ghana (ECG) made the decision after it detected errors in the nomination forms handed in by the candidates. This legal action has raised fears that the elections might have to be postponed. Political analyst Kwesi Jonah thinks the commission should try to reach an out-of-court settlement with the concerned candidates: “Assuming that we are not able to hold elections on December 7 because of the court cases, what happens?” he asked. Jonah would like Ghana to maintain its reputation as a peaceful country with a tradition of free, fair and transparent elections.
Russian nationalists were behind an alleged coup attempt in Montenegro that included plans to assassinate the pro-Western prime minister because of his government’s bid to join NATO, the Balkan country’s chief special prosecutor said Sunday. Milivoje Katnic said the investigation leads to the conclusion that “nationalists from Russia” organized a criminal group that planned to break into the Montenegro Parliament on election day, kill Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and bring a pro-Russian coalition to power. Some 20 Serbian and Montenegrin citizens, including a former commander of Serbia’s special police forces, were arrested in Montenegro during the Oct. 16 vote. Fourteen of them remain in custody, including some who have fought for pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine. Russian officials have denied any involvement. But they have openly supported the “patriotic” parties that are against Montenegro’s membership bid in the Western military alliance.